Were you the “class clown” throughout most of your school years? Can you make people laugh? Have you ever wondered how those stand-up comics are able to make money doing something they love? While big-name comics are rare, almost anyone can start doing stand-up comedy!

First, watch the masters.

Check out Netflix and YouTube for some great stand-up comedy routines. Don’t neglect the old-timers; some comedy techniques that we use today were pioneered by comedians of yesteryear, and the older videos can show you comedy methods that you may not see in modern comedians.

Some comedians (especially in older times) used a gimmick, like a puppet or props. Some comedians tell jokes. Many comedians (especially these days) use stories to entertain. Comedy is all about communicating with your audience, and the surest sign that a comic will fail is that the comic is not authentic. Watching the masters is a good way to hone your craft, but if your routine is not authentic and funny to you, your audience won’t like it either.

Second, take a break.

Before working on your comedy routine, take a break from stand-up comedy. Joke theft is considered to be one of the most egregious sins a comic can commit, and this can happen inadvertently if you’ve just finished watching a stand-up special when you sit down to write.

Always have a notebook.

The best comedy comes from the authentic lives of the comic, so most comics will carry around a small notepad and pen wherever they go. When a friend says something hilarious, write it down. When a random thought makes you laugh in the line at the coffeeshop, make a note of it. All of this source material is essential for a comic.

Write a routine.

To start out your stand-up comedy career, write your first routine. Take the funny things you listed in your notebook and develop your routine around that. Pick one or two topics, and try to limit your routine to 10 minutes. Make sure that you have transitions between topics if you’re using more than one.

Find an amateur night or open mic.

If you have a comedy club in your area, chances are it has an amateur night. One night every week or every month is usually devoted to amateurs. If you don’t have a comedy club nearby, try an open mic. These settings can be less useful, because they’re often poetry or music and comedy is a harder sell, but if that’s the only option you have for performing in public, give it a try.

One important note about amateur nights and open mics: the venue hosting the event makes the rules. Check the website, call the club, or attend an event as a spectator before taking the stage. Comedy clubs tend to be exceptionally strict on time limits.

As you perform your routine, you’ll continually be honing and improving it based on the feedback you get from your audience. In time, you’ll develop multiple routines that – with practice – can become a regular part of a larger show. With a little practice and an awful lot of luck, you may one day get your very own HBO comedy special!

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